UN Team Unveils Asteroid Defense Plan

On the same day massive rock buzzes the Earth

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 15, 2013 8:39 AM CST

(Newser) – An asteroid about half the size of a football field will whiz past Earth today, closer than any object of its size ever has before (OK, almost any object), and a much smaller meteor actually hit Russia this morning, injuring hundreds. But fear not, people of Earth: Soon, we may have the power to fight off rocks from outer space. The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs will today present a plan to guard against and react to threats from the cosmos, Bloomberg reports.

The plan, which has been in the works for 12 years, includes a global asteroid warning system, and a team tasked with overseeing space missions to either destroy menacing asteroids or deflect them with a "gravity tractor." NASA already tracks near-earth asteroids, but only has tabs on the 1,310 biggest—which might represent less than 10% of the threats out there. And while it could be decades before one becomes a problem, "we could find one that would give us three months," the head of the UN group says. The General Assembly will likely consider the plan during its October meeting.

This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013.
This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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If this asteroid were to hit London, the entire metropolitan area would
be gone. - Sergio Camacho, head of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs group working on the asteroid report, on the asteroid set to pass Earth today

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